Working towards safety goals can be an exciting, but equally, a frustrating experience. Without intending to, well-meaning people in organizations can often create barriers to safe work. Examples of this include introducing confusing or ambiguous procedures and roles, not providing the right tools or equipment for a job, or simply by creating the conditions where a colleague does not feel enabled or supported to work in the safest way possible. Where frustration or perceived lack of support creeps in, short-cuts or ‘creative solutions’ can occur.
Identifying barriers to safe work is not always an easy task. Many barriers are not physical or obvious, they can be procedural, behavioral and cultural. In our work with clients around the world over the last 17 years, supported by our research, we have identified a number of major ‘disconnects’ between desired and intended ways to ensure safe work…. and the way things actually take place and get applied in the field. As a result, we have developed best practices across five core HSE processes, which we believe contribute the most to safety, quality and efficiency outcomes. Each of them rely on getting four things right – in terms of leadership, culture, processes and metrics.
To help you understand the health, maturity and impact of your approach to safety, we would encourage you to consider the following four questions.
- Do your leaders (from the Board Room to front-line supervisors) act in ways that encourage initiatives and actions that support the pursuit of your safety ambitions?
- Does the culture in your organization support and make possible, the consistent and rigorous use of safety processes and systems?
- Are your safety processes organized in the safest and most efficient way and are they implemented as intended? How do you monitor this and how do you make people care?
- Have you put metrics in place to monitor and detect developments in safety performance exposure, quality and efficiency, with a focus on both leading and lagging indicators?
Your answers will provide some insight into how ready you are to transform safety and operational performance in your company. We provide our point of view and some additional things to think about, in the following articles: